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Christmas Tree Lane Top Ten Things You Might Not Know

The annual Thompson Avenue tradition is kept alive by new generations of families

1. Christmas Tree Lane has been a tradition on the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue since 1938.

2. During World War II, blackouts were ordered and the lights on Christmas Tree Lane had to be turned off so they couldn’t be seen from air.

3. Bernard Roberts, 93, whose family helped start the Christmas Tree Lane tradition, still lives on the street. When his wife, Harriet Roberts, died in 2007, her family established a memorial fund in her name to commemorate the role she played in keeping the annual tradition alive. Their children and grandchildren still participate in the festivities each year.

4. David Peterson, known to many as “The Mayor of Christmas Tree Lane," still comes back to visit each year with his wife, Virginia, even though they now live in a retirement community elsewhere in Alameda. Peterson worked in the Alameda Unified School District for many years, including as principal of Edison Elementary School. His annual return creates much excitement on the block.

5. In the 1970s, when energy costs skyrocketed, the Christmas Tree Lane tradition almost had to be scrapped, but residents of the street and Alameda rallied to save it. Santa and his elves started visiting Christmas Tree Lane around that time.

6. All of the 2,500 lights decorating the large trees and the median decorations are stored in one resident's garage.

7. Members of Mastick Senior Center help Santa respond to the hundreds of letters children leave in Santa's Thompson Street mailbox.

8. Christmas Tree Lane now has its own Facebook Page.

9. When the tradition began, the trees in the median strip were small enough they could be decorated by hand. 

10. The annual event is truly a neighborhood undertaking. One Thompson Avenue family, the Winterbaurs, donate all of the candy canes passed out each year. Dads from the neighborhood make sure Santa is “present and accounted for” each night. Neighborhood children take on the role of elves, with some families even boasting multiple generations of them.

Carol Parker December 24, 2011 at 12:43 AM
KQED Radio's California Report interviewed some Christmas Tree Lane residents. To hear a four minute audio clip with even more behind the scenes details about Alameda's famous street you can visit the California Report site here - http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201112231630/e
Wendy Hanson December 25, 2011 at 06:18 PM
What a great Christmas tradition! We took our guests for a ride on Christmas Eve and it was wonderful. You could feel the community spirit! Thanks to all that made it possible.

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